In one of their worst performances this season, the Charlotte Hornets lost 113-98 to the Orlando Magic, with Jeremy Lin having another one of those games in which he plays very well in the first half but struggles getting anything done in the second half.
This was the second consecutive loss by the Hornets, falling to 14-10, losing their hold on the top spot in the division against a Magic team that’s looked excellent the past two weeks, since Scott Skiles made some lineup changes that have seem to make everything better on both ends of the floor for the team. It was another bad start for the lineup the Hornets keep messing up with, only the bench unit didn’t blindside the Magic like they usually do. There were also no official calls to complain about like in the loss against Boston.
Lin finished the game with 8 points in 29 minutes, hitting just 3-of-9 from the field and 1-of-4 from beyond the arc, adding four assists, usually as he drew a double team to find an open shooter or one easy dunk in the paint. He looked sharp and decisive in the first half. In the second half, with a different minute distribution than before, things just didn’t go his way, or the team’s way for that matter, with turnovers and 3-point misses keeping him away from finding any rhythm.
You can see Lin in a couple of the highlights shouting about getting stops. But the Hornets, early on through turnovers and later by simply struggling to keep up with Magic players, didn’t make it very difficult for Orlando to stay hot. The Magic shot 55.8% from the field and 58.3% from beyond the arc, punishing the Hornets with 25 points off of 16 turnovers. With Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum off from the first minute (combined 6-of-19 from the field), Jeremy Lamb having a good shooting night didn’t really matter.
There’s no big conclusion from this game. The Hornets are a good team, but far from one that’s elevated above most of the East in its consistency and execution on both ends of the floor. Their defense hasn’t been much of a problem all season, so it was surprising to see them struggle so much on that end for once, but we’ll need to see more of that to figure out if there’s an actual problem or they were simply having a bad day.
One thing that remains consistent: The starting lineup, in the first quarter and the third (with Lin actually playing right off the bat in the second half), keeps stepping into games a step slower than their opponents. Without the bench to erase those early minutes of inferiority, the Hornets can’t get it going. Lin was probably inserted in the game a bit too late in the first quarter to make the difference he usually does and although it was nice seeing him on the floor at the beginning of the second half, Clifford can’t afford to not have him as a pace changer and momentum builder coming in when things don’t work so well. There’s no one else who can change games like him by putting the ball in his hand.